How to House Train A Dog From A Shelter. A helpful & Useful Guide

In this article we provide a quick guide on how to house train a dog from a shelter. Things to avoid, what to look for, medical issues, helpful tools and more.

First, we would like to thank you for choosing to adopt your new best friend from a shelter.

Too often, people pass up wonderful shelter dogs in favor of breeders, and these dogs are left without a home and sometimes euthanized due to overpopulation.

We appreciate that you have chosen this path and know that you will enjoy your new buddy.

You will make plenty of memories, and your experience can be that much more pleasant if you know how to train your pup.

Doing so will improve dog ownership, and you will be wagging your tails!


Potty Training Basic Steps

Perhaps the essential part of your doggy’s new life at home is making sure she knows where the bathroom is.

You might think this process will be impossible because your pet is an adult-not so!

Let’s look at the steps for housetraining your dog:

  • Bring your patience and your consistency. This is going to be critical.


  • Choose a spot. Take your pup outdoors to the same place every time she has to go. Her scent will be there, and she will understand this is the time and place to go to the bathroom.


  • Keep the time consistent. Much like you know when you have to “go” every day, so does your pup. Take her out after she gets up and about 30 minutes after eating. Also, be sure to let her go just before bed. It may take some time before she “goes,” but be sure to let your patience shine and let her have the time needed.


  • As you train, keep rooms closed off. Do not let your new dog go around the house until she is fully trained-she could accidentally go in a room and think of this place as a potty spot. Keep her restricted to, for instance, just the downstairs.


  • Watch for signals: Your dog may circle, sniff around intensely, or go back to a spot where she relieved herself in the past. If so, grab the lead and get her outdoors to the site.


  • Offer praise. Once she goes to her “spot,” offer a treat and praise. You can also say words like “potty,” “poop,” or even “toilet” as she goes so that way she associates it with going and will be prompted to do so upon hearing the word.


  • If an accident in the house happens, clean it immediately with a pet-friendly cleaner. Nature’s Miracle makes some good products.


House Train a Dog – Things To Avoid

Never, EVER punish your dog.

She may become afraid of you and begin relieving herself in spots she thinks you won’t notice.  You should avoid rubbing her nose in the waste.

You should also not scold the animal for going inside the house.

Instead, make some noise that will startle the dog and stop the elimination from happening.

Once that has stopped, help your dog get outside and show her the potty spot. Once she finishes going, praise her and perhaps offer a treat.

You should also avoid punishing your dog physically. Jerking the collar or hitting the dog with a rolled-up magazine is not the way to go.

Understand that you did not notice the signals your dog was sending you, or perhaps you did not take her out during the scheduled times.

If you instill fear surrounding elimination, the problem will only get worse.

This makes elimination a positive experience, and she will not associate urination or defecation with a negative moment.


Incomplete House Training?

In some cases, dogs may not have been given adequate training, or perhaps something happened where their house training stopped, and they did not fully master the skill.

Rest assured, you can work with your dog to ensure they learn to go outside in an appropriate spot. We even use this great program that aids in the housebreaking of dogs.

All the same basic rules apply to your dog that we discussed earlier.

You will be patient and consistent and offer lots of praise for your pet when she eliminates in the appropriate spot.

Remember, dogs like to do business in places away from their eating, sleeping, and playtime spots.

Therefore, please work with your dog by consistently taking her outside and rewarding her for going when and where you want her to.

Treats and plenty of praise/pats are great ways to do this.

You also have to be very diligent about your dog in the house. She may want to go there as it is a place of comfort.

Therefore, it is up to you as the owner to make sure you watch for all those warning signals we talked about earlier: circling, sniffing, pawing at the ground.

If you notice even a hint of these signs, take your dog outside on the lead to the potty spot and encourage them to go, giving them time to do so.

Then offer praise and a small treat. Consistent, you will find that your dog will tell you when she is ready to go.

Many dogs, for instance, paw at the door.


Could Crate Training Help?

See crates on Amazon

Dogs like smaller spaces as it helps them feel secure. However, it would help if you kept crate time to a minimum and never used it as a punishment.

It is, however, a great way of assisting dogs to be on their best behavior, as they like to keep places where they rest, eat and sleep clean.

This will help your dog to “hold it” when it cannot go. Ensure you avoid putting newspapers or blankets inside the crate, as your dog may be tempted to eliminate these items.

The crate should only be a place of comfort and security, and you should never force your dog inside.

The crate should always be placed in a spot where the dog can see and interact with everybody in the household, such as in the living room, kitchen, or other rooms, so that she can interact with the rest of her “wolf-pack.”

Always be sure you remove her collar, so there are no choking hazards, and place a toy or two in there for added relaxation.

Properly crate training your dog can provide her with a safe space to relax and learn to “hold it” while you are away for short periods.


Are There Medical Issues Involved? 

Even if, after repeated training, your dog still finds it pertinent to eliminate indoors, it is worthwhile that you rule out any medical issues that might be at play.

Be sure you take your dog to the vet and ask them about any health factors that might play into your dog’s behaviors.

Some common ones include:


Gastrointestinal Issues

If you are finding that your once-housetrained dog eliminates stools that are loose in nature or experiences diarrhea in the house, this may be a sign of gastrointestinal issues.


Dietary Modifications

Have you changed up the food your dog eats?

Perhaps she has new food for medical reasons or because it was something you thought she might like. Fresh food can cause diarrhea or loose stools.

Your dog may need to “go” more frequently or at different times.



A dog may leak just as humans do after certain medical conditions or procedures. Dogs with this issue usually do not realize what they have done.

They may even eliminate during sleep.

Some problems associated with canine incontinence include UTIs, hormone issues after being spayed, kidney diseases, genital abnormalities, or Cushing’s disease, to name a few causes.

Indeed, it is worthwhile to see a vet rule out any of these issues as the cause for any trouble with elimination.


Environmental Factors Related To Elimination

Depending on where your rescue dog grew up as a puppy, this can impact where it will be eliminated.

Your adult dog will gravitate to surfaces they used when they were a puppy, aged about 6 to 10 weeks.

Many dogs will use someplace outdoors. A dog that grew up in the city will likely want to use the pavement.

Most dogs will look for the grass or even some dirt where they can go.

However, dogs that grew up indoors-such as in kennels or shelters, may display a very adverse reaction to using “normal” surfaces like grass or pavement.

This is an excellent opportunity for you as the owner to be patient, consistent, and kind as you show her the right place to go.

You can even work with her by providing a small spot where she can go in the right place, but with the surface she desires.

For instance, a city dog might like a small slab of concrete placed out in the backyard.

Some old tiles in the backyard that mimic a kennel floor may be helpful.

Some adopted dogs may also fear going outside, thanks to their new environment.

Dogs that move from the city to the country and vice versa may feel so overwhelmed about going to the new places that they have trouble going outside.

However, you can help. Let your dog go outside and explore around with her.

You can take her to a park, calmly help her walk around, and realize out is not the wrong place to be.

And although it may be a bit of a strange request, ask a friend for dog urine from one of their dogs.

You can pour it in the place you want your dog to go, which may trigger her to “go.”


Helpful Products 

We want to start by saying that you should avoid ammonia-based cleaners when cleaning up dog accidents in the house.

Instead, stick with natural products that eliminate smells and prevent her from returning.

You can buy some great ones: Nature’s Miracle, which uses enzymes to get rid of odors naturally and safely, or Rocco & Roxie brand stain and odor eliminator. (The latter also works for cats, too!)

Stain and Odor Remover for Dog poopStain and Odor Remover for Dog poop

Each of these cleaners is safe for use around pets and reasonably priced. Plus, they smell great, too.



Persistence, patience, and a consistent training schedule are the way to go.

Spending a good chunk of time with your pet will make for healthy habits your dog will carry with her throughout life.

Stick with it; before you know it, she will go on her own.

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